Canon engineers didn’t stick to the script with the PowerShot Zoom ($299.99), a new concept for compact cameras that completely foregoes wide-angle coverage — think of it like a digital spy goggles for photographing distant subjects. It’s more useful than a smartphone for photographing local animals and outdoor sports, and offers some appeal for home photographers who use iPhones for most of their shots. , but sometimes want a little more zoom power. But it takes more than innovation to recommend the PowerShot Zoom unequivocally, as its image and video quality lags behind modern smartphones.
Digital spy glasses
The PowerShot Zoom is comfortable enough to hold, even if it’s a bit awkward to use. A one-handed device, the Zoom sits in the palm of your hand, measuring 2.0 x 1.3 x 4.1 inches (HWD). It weighs as much as a phone at 5.1 ounces, and you can tell that most of the weight is in the optics — the chassis itself is light, but not flimsy, plastic.
All controls are located around the eyepiece. The power, zoom, and menu buttons are at the top — the Zoom button is larger and elongated, which is important because it’s the one you want to find by touch.
The shutter and record buttons, for photos and videos, are below, accessible with your thumb. They’re at a slight angle and there’s a raised plastic ridge around the video button so you can tell them apart.
However, from time to time I still find myself fumbling, starting to record a video when I want to snap a photo or vice versa. It’s something you need to get used to over time. You’ll also want to be careful not to bump into the diopter control wheel. It’s adjacent and rotates fairly easily — you’ll see a blurry viewfinder if you don’t set it to suit your field of vision.
Bring the camera to eye level and you’ll be greeted with a large, sharp EVF (2.4 million dots). It provides a clear view of the world. The lens is a telephoto lens that swaps between 100mm and 400mm optical zoom views (in full-frame conditions) and offers 800mm digital zoom. If you come from the smartphone world where 25mm is “1x”, you can consider Zoom as a 4x and 8x companion to your mobile device.
I don’t want to consider this a camera just for smartphone photographers, but in 2020 most people are hesitant to go for enthusiasts and professionals alike. Demanding photographers can still enjoy using this feature when they don’t want to carry around a heavy kit, but let’s be frank: The actual images this camera captures are on par with smartphones. mid-range and lagging behind what flagships can do. The result is a bit muddy, even in bright light, and you can forget about using it after the sun goes down.
We’ve seen smartphones add a bit of zoom power, either through multi-lens arrays, folding optics or algorithmic means, but they’re still a bit short for trips to the zoo or Filming action scenes at a football match. And, with its own viewfinder, the Zoom is a much more affordable device to use than the swarm of lens cameras we saw a few years ago.
Navigating the menus is a chore – the photo and recording buttons are used to scroll through the menus, and the double zoom button is OK. That’s fine, but keeping them straight while keeping the camera in your eye requires a certain amount of focus.
Connections and power supply
The PowerShot Zoom’s built-in battery is only good for 150 images per charge, so don’t expect to use it all day. It’s easy enough to charge, even on the go, via USB-C, if you run out of battery.
Photos and videos are saved to the microSD memory. The card slot supports all formats, including SDXC, but you don’t need a big and expensive card. 12MP stills and 1080p footage isn’t huge — 32GB card holds 5,000+ photos
Zoom pairs with Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth. You’ll need to install the Canon Camera Connect app, a free download, and go through a quick setup process, in just a few minutes.
Once connected, you can use the app to download media from the camera to your phone, to edit and share on social networks, or use your phone as a remote viewfinder. The Zoom doesn’t have a tripod socket, but will sit flat on a flat surface, so remote control is beneficial.
Canon advertises that this feature is useful for two shots taken at sporting events — one seeing a closer look through the search engine, the other on the phone’s screen.
PowerShot Zoom image and video quality
Telephoto lenses tend to be big and there’s a reason for that. Interchangeable lens cameras have large image sensors and that means long lenses with lots of glass for a narrow angle of view.
See how we test the cameraSee how we test the camera
For its small size and $300 price tag, Zoom uses a much smaller image sensor, a 1/3-inch chip with 12MP resolution. It’s smaller than other superzoom cameras, including Canon’s PowerShot SX70 HS, and the imaging chip in smartphones.
The lens’ small sensor and modest aperture (f/5.6 at 100mm and f/6.3 at 400mm) limit you from using it in daylight. Image quality degrades quickly in low light, and while autofocus remains at the 100mm setting, I found it nearly impossible to focus for low-light shooting at 400mm.
In bright light, focusing is quick, even at the telephoto end. There’s no lag when you’re locked in, and the electronic shutter takes pictures without any vibration or noise.
Under the sun, the image displayed well, but not too detailed. I don’t mind that the feathers on ducks swimming in a local canal aren’t pretty — the photos are perfect for email, Facebook, and the like.
Using the 800mm digital zoom degrades the image quality a bit, but you may find the additional magnifying power well worth it. It will help you fill the frame with smaller subjects when working at 400mm — if you’re setting up near a bird feeder, you’ll need about 15 feet (4.5m) away to focus.
I was a bit disappointed in the dynamic range, as highlights were blown out quite easily. Smartphones avoid this effect thanks to automatic HDR processing, but the Zoom feature doesn’t benefit from the computational help that makes the phone camera so good. You can switch back to auto exposure a bit to limit this via EV adjustment, but that’s not something that’s easily done on the go — the menus are hard to navigate.
Video is 1080p, locked at 30fps, and perfectly usable. You’ll need to be careful to keep the camera steady, but the digital stabilization makes for decent handheld shots. There is some evidence of judder, especially at 400mm, but it’s not surprising – stabilizing telephoto video is much more difficult than wide-angle footage.
A concept worth exploring
Take credit when it’s due — Canon has delivered a camera that is, conceptually, quite useful and affordable in today’s world.
Most of us always have a world-class compact camera in our pocket — the latest multi-lens iPhones, Galaxy, and Pixels deliver superb image quality, even in very dim lighting situations. or a sudden mixture — at a wide angle. But they’re not great for distant subjects. You don’t want to rely on your iPhone camera, even its 2x lens, to capture images of your kids playing in a mini-tournament game, the deer visiting your backyard, or a trip to the office. animal.
PowerShot Zoom dedicates its lens to distant subjects, with 100mm settings suitable for portraits and mid-ranges, and 400mm for those times when you just can’t get any closer to the action.
It gets there in a completely pocket-friendly package, and at $300, it’s about as affordable as a dedicated camera. But there are some glaring downsides – the picture quality is decent, and the 1080p video resolution isn’t suitable for our 4K world.
I think the concept here is a sound. This is a better smartphone companion than failed attempts like the Sony QX and Olympus Air. For starters, it’s practical to use as a standalone device, and importantly, it doesn’t try to cover the same ground as your phone’s camera. It just needs to provide better visuals to create a stronger proposition.
If you want a camera to get those telephoto shots, Zoom’s price is appealing, but we’d recommend going with the more powerful bridge-style compact. The Panasonic FZ80 sells for the same price and offers more zoom capabilities, while the Canon SX70 HS and Panasonic FZ1000 II are upgraded and more practical options for modern photography needs.